Marbella. There aren't many places offering year-round sunshine in Europe that, from beaches and golf to shopping and fine dining, tick as many of the luxury holiday boxes. Sounds tempting?…
Staying in a villa on the Costa del Sol offers the perfect opportunity to see the best of the Andalucian cities like Seville and Granada, as they can easily be reached in a day.
Thanks to the excellent Andalucia road network it’s perfectly possible to spend a day in Seville while staying on the coast. To get the most out of your trip you will want to know the best things to do, so here are five must-sees for visiting Seville in a day.
Our Top Tips For a Day in Seville
Seville is the quintessential Andalusian city where fine monuments, haunting flamenco and fragrant orange blossom come together to make it one of Spain’s most romantic cities. The capital of Andalucia and home to the regional government, Seville is a bustling metropolis with a long list of cultural and leisure attractions.
Divided by the winding Guadalquivir River, Seville has a skyline is dominated by the Moorish Giralda tower (the city’s symbol) and the ultra-modern Pelli Tower (Andalusia’s tallest building). Seville is somewhere to take your time over as you soak up the atmosphere in the Santa Cruz and Triana districts, stroll along the river or explore the Arenal, home to the world’s most famous bullring La Maestranza.
It’s worth dedicating a couple of days to this lively city if you can, and we would be happy to assist with arranging “A Spoily Sleepover” in the city with our private guides. But if you only have a day to spend in the city, here are five unmissable things to do in Seville.
This Moorish-style palace is Seville’s answer to the Alhambra in Granada. The fine rooms and patios were commissioned by Pedro I, the Christian king who reigned in this part of Andalusian during the 14th century. The craftsmanship is on a par with the Alhambra since the building was done by Moorish workers based in Granada. Admire the delicate stucco and decorative tiling throughout as well as the characteristic keyhole arches and courtyards.
Highlights in the Mudejar masterpiece – still used by the Spanish royal family as a residence – include the intricate Patio de las Doncellas, sumptuous Sala de los Embajadores where ambassadors were received and the antique and tapestry-packed Royal Chambers. The gardens are a treat for the senses with bougainvillea, orange blossom and fountains at every turn.
Everything about Seville’s Cathedral is big -it’s the largest in Spain and the third largest in the world. Started in the early 15th century, it’s also the world’s largest Gothic building. This giant ochre structure was built on top of the Moorish mosque, completely demolished except for the minaret.
Inside this vast place of worship, admire the main chapel whose altarpiece is the largest in the world, the monument to Christopher Columbus (it contains some of his remains – the whereabouts of the others is much debated), the Royal Chapel with the tombs of several monarchs and the Orange Tree Patio whose central fountains were originally used for ablutions by worshippers at the mosque.
Next, climb the minaret, the original 12th Moorish tower with its later additions of 24 bells and the weather vane in the form of a bronze statue of Faith. Known as the Giraldillo (small turning object), the vane gave its name to the Giralda Tower, the city’s most famous landmark. The ascent to the top is unusually via ramps, built to allow soldiers on horseback to climb the tower. The panoramic views of Seville are well worth the climb and give you a good idea of the city’s layout.
This corner of the city is a maze of alleyways, squares and whitewashed houses. Lose yourself as you wander round the narrow streets, pausing to admire the typically Andalusian wrought-iron grills and flower-filled balconies, dip into the curio-packed antique shops or enjoy a fino sherry and tapa at one of the outdoor cafés.
If you have time, visit the Casa de Pilatos (so-called because the 16th mansion is supposedly modelled on Pontius Pilate’s house in Jerusalem) with its exceptional Andalusian tiles, Renaissance architecture and lovely patio.
Santa Cruz is also home to a must for flamenco fans – the Flamenco Museum where displays explain the background and art behind Spain’s best-known music. Shows and classes are also held here.
Parque de Maria Luisa
This lovely park brings some welcome respite from Seville’s hustle and bustle. If you don’t fancy exploring the park on foot, hire a horse and carriage to take you round. Small cafés provide perfect stops for refreshment.
The park, a mixture of formal gardens and parkland, was redesigned for the 1929 World Fair (Seville also hosted the event in 1992) and houses several pavilions including the magnificent Plaza de España. Here, each of Spain’s provinces is represented in a tiled mosaic and you can hire a rowing boat to sail along the small canal.
Hotel Alfonso XIII
Hotels reach a new dimension at this emblematic venue, built also for the 1929 World Fair in the Mudejar style. Walk through the doors and you leave the busy city behind and enter a slice of history, but, although the essence is traditional, a recent head-to-toe renovation means all mod cons are available too. The central glass and brick courtyard is perhaps the architectural highlight and perfect for enjoying a leisurely cocktail after a day’s sightseeing.
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Where is Marbella?First things first, though. Where is it? Marbella is in southern Spain - in the province of Malaga in the Andalucia region, to be exact - on a stretch of coast called the Costa del Sol. Here's a map of Marbella to help you get your bearings:
Where Do You Fly to?It depends on from where you're flying in. The nearest international airport to Marbella is Malaga. Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (Aena.es) is 51km away and an easy 40-minute car/taxi ride. Virtually all the major airlines fly there direct from the UK and from across northern Europe. The next closest airport to Marbella is Gibraltar (Gibraltarairport.gi), which is just over an hour's drive away. British Airways, Easyjet and Monarch all fly direct from the UK to Gibraltar.
From the USIf you’re flying into Spain from the USA you'll probably have to travel to Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (Aena.es). From there you'll have to either fly, take the fast speed AVE train (Renfe.com) or drive to Malaga and transfer from there to Marbella. The most convenient way to get to Marbella from Madrid is by the fast speed train taking just 2.5hrs or by flying taking only 1 hour and 15 mins.
how to get there from malaga airport
By CarThe best way to get from Malaga to Marbella is to drive. And if you're on holiday that probably means you're going to need to hire a car. As with almost all international airports, Malaga has a frankly baffling array of different car hire options to pick through. To avoid the scrum of the departures lounge, jump on the complimentary minibus to the offices of Niza, Helle Hollis or Enterprise situated a mere minute outside of the terminal. Inside the terminal you can find Sixt, Hertz and Europcar. If you're unsure of which company to use, click the following link. For a more luxury car hire service we'd recommend Sixt (Sixt.com). They're friendly, totally professional, trustworthy and have a range of high-end rental options, from BMWs, Audis and Porsches to Mercedes and Range Rovers - and even automatics. If you're travelling in a large group, they also have 8-12 seater self-drive minibuses available for hire. Of course if you're looking for ease, our Concierge can make the reservation for you to be dropped directly off at the villa. A car of your choice can be delivered to your villa. Once you've picked up your car/minibus hire, driving from Malaga airport to Marbella could hardly be easier. Directions from Malaga-Costa del Sol airport are as follows:
- Leave the airport and head southeast onto N-348
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on N-348
- Take the Torremolinos ramp to N-340/Cádiz
- Merge onto Avenida de Velázquez/N-340/MA-21
- Take the ramp to E-15/A-7/Benalmadena/Algeciras. Merge onto AP-7
- Pass Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola
- Take exit 184 towards Marbella/Casco Antiguo/Avenida del Trapiche
By TaxiFor sheer ease, you can’t beat jumping in a taxi. A taxi rank is situated outside the arrivals sidewalk of Terminal T3, level 0. It's best to ask the driver, beforehand, how much a taxi is from Malaga to Marbella to ensure they don’t overcharge you. There are two transfer prices, and these are dependent on both times of the day and the day of the week. Transfer Price Band 1 is weekdays from 06.00 to 22.00 hrs. Transfer Price Band 2 is weekdays from 22.00 to 06.00 hrs, all day Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, the August Feria and Holy Week. Band 2 transfer time is more expensive than Band 1. Alternatively, you can pre-order a taxi at Malaga Airport Taxi (Malagaairporttaxi.net) and get a price when booking. The transfer time from Malaga Airport to Marbella takes around an hour, in a taxi.
Other Ways to Get to Marbella
- By bus: It is possible to take a bus (Alsa.com) from Malaga airport to Marbella. But it's a whole lot less convenient than driving via hire car or private transfer.
- By train: There isn’t a train connection from Malaga airport to Marbella.
Distances - how far is marbella from...
- Malaga (city): 61km away and 46 minutes' drive.
- Granada: 187km and just over 2 hours' drive.
- Seville: 258km and 2 hours 45 minutes' drive.
- Gibraltar: 78km and 1 hour 2 minutes' drive.
- Madrid: 584 km and 5 hours 45 minutes' drive.
A Bit of HistoryThe land previously belonged to the Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi, who it is said, used the estate as his party house and hunting grounds. The property and land went up for sale and a group of Spanish property developers bought it and put plans together to create a playground for the rich and famous in Marbella. Each villa is unique, with their own styles depending on the specifications of the owner.
Location & Getting There
So where is La Zagaleta?The large estate sits in Malaga province in the south of Andalucia. It’s in the foothills of the Ronda Mountains just 25 minutes from Marbella, 18 minutes from Nuevo Andalucia and the nearest beach. It's 20 minutes from the village of Benahavis, 40 minutes from Sotogrande port, 50 minutes from Ronda, 55 minutes from Malaga airport and just over an hour from Gibraltar airport. La Zagaleta is very easily accessed by car or helicopter. There's heavy security surrounding the estate and entrance is on prior permission only.
What Else is in La Zagaleta?It’s worth noting that all the facilities in La Zagaleta are for exclusive use to villa owners only; they pay an enormous service charge to be allowed to use the facilities.
Golf CourseLa Zagaleta golf club is only open to villa owners and their guests. They have exclusive access to two of the Costa del Sol's best private golf courses, La Zagaleta and Los Barrancos. La Zagaleta golf course - known as the Old Course - is to championship standard with 18 holes, Par 72 over a distance of 4800 - 6000 yards. Designed by renowned golf architect Brad Benz in 1991 and redesigned by Marc Westenborg in 2016, it’s a rewarding course with fantastic views to the coast and flanked by mountains. The New Course, Los Barrancos, is very different to the Old Course. It’s a challenging 18-hole, Par 70 with lots of obstacles over a distance of 4356 – 5381 yards.
The ClubhousesThe hub of the estate is the spectacular Old Clubhouse, or La Zagaleta country club. Measuring 5,100m² it has an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, billiards, bowling alley, tennis courts, gourmet food supermarket, pro-golf shop and restaurants (see below). There's also a nightclub, bars and events space where there’s a full schedule of experiences and parties planned. The New Clubhouse is a thatched lakeside venue. A lot smaller than the Old Clubhouse, it's still just as popular with La Zagaleta residents for events or having a quick drink in the bar.
Horse RidingLa Zagaleta is home to some beautiful stables with indoor and outdoor schooling arenas. Horses can either be kept on a full livery basis, or horses and ponies can be hired for lessons or hacks. ‘The Riding Club’ equestrian centre has a team of instructors and well-schooled horses for all levels of rider including Arab, PRE and, for the children, Farabella horses and Welsh ponies.
RestaurantsWhy leave the comfort of a beautiful villa when you can enjoy a top-quality meal at home? At La Zagaleta there are Michelin starred chefs available for in-house dining throughout the estate. However, for owners the clubhouse has two restaurants: the formal dining Old Course Restaurant; and a terrace bar restaurant that's ideal for light bites and brunches.
Famous ResidentsThere is private security throughout the whole of La Zagaleta - so know one really know who lives or owns houses there. It’s a place where the super-rich and famous go to be away from the limelight. However, it is said that Hugh Grant, Rod Stewart and Vladimir Putin all have house in La Zagaleta.
What to Do NearbyWhen staying in La Zagaleta, the houses are so special that it’s sometimes difficult to tear yourself away from the estate. However, if you do want to see more of the area, here's our pick of easily accessible and great day trips:
- Ronda: historic, boutique wineries and ab-so-lutely beautiful.
- Benahavis village: a great option for restaurants; have a lunch or dinner in this pretty village.
- Granada: a romantic inland city and home to the Alhambra Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Malaga: the birthplace of Picasso with a fort, palace and Roman amphitheatre.
- Cordoba: historic city with a stunning mosque-church at its centre.
- Sevilla: one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
- Sotogrande: a lovely port, wake boarding lake and polo hub.